Findings of USC poll on teachers at odds with earlier survey
LA School Report | June 27, 2014
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A Washington, D.C. polling firm has expressed disagreement with some of the findings in the PACE/USC Rossier School of Education poll that was released yesterday. The USC poll showed public opinion favored the decisions reached in Vergara v. California, striking down teacher protection laws.
In a memo sent to LA School Report, Lake Research Partners said its own poll on the same issues, conducted in May, a month before the Vergara case was decided, showed a different view. Perhaps that’s no surprise: It was conducted for the American Federation of Teachers, whose state affiliate, the California Federation of Teachers, was a defendant in the Vergara case.
“The ongoing discourse before during and after the Vergara trial decision has tried to blame teachers and further the idea that current policies keep ineffective teachers in low-performing school districts and perpetuate unequal outcomes,” the polling firm said. “Our research suggests voters do not agree with this causality.”
The Lake poll found that 82 percent of voters agreed that “blaming teachers when schools struggle may make headlines but it does nothing to help kids.” Additionally, it said 92 percent of voters agree that “teachers should have a voice in shaping education policies because teachers are in the classroom every day and understand the real problems facing schools.”
On the issue of tenure, Lake said the wording of the questions in the USC poll led a majority of respondents to reject tenure as good state policy.
The Lake poll asked respondents if they favor or oppose providing tenure for teachers in their third year of teaching after they have passed performance evaluations, and 41 percent of parents opposed while a 52 percent favored.
The memo said: “When we read the following before asking if they favor or oppose – ‘Teachers who have passed performance evaluations are eligible for tenure in their third year of teaching. This grants them due process protections from being dismissed arbitrarily” – we find 52 percent of voters and 59 percent of parents favoring tenure.’
Jonathan Voss, a senior analyst for Lake Research Partners, acknowledged the apples-to-oranges comparison of the two polls in that Lake’s came before Judge Rolf Treu ruled in Vergara.
“There was plenty of coverage in the Vergara case before the decision,” he said. “But it’s a fair point.”
The Lake poll found some common ground with the USC survey. For example, while the USC poll said 64 percent of voters and 70 percent of parents say “the state of California should be spending more on schools,” Lake found broad agreement that “California schools are underfunded” – 68 percent of voters and 79 percent of parents agree.
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